After sweet southern girl Dani (Samantha Stewart) finds out that her current boyfriend and love of her life is actually married she is heartbroken. After leaving him, she decides to go to LA for a few weeks to live with her life long best friend Stacy (Ruth Reynolds) to get over her ex by partying, catching up, and just having a blast. A few days after drinking, wandering the Hollywood Walk of Fame and checking out the Chinese Theatre, and plenty of other overly touristy sites, things start to get a little weird. Dani has a run in with a woman selling jewellery on the beach who reads her palm and screams at her to leave. Almost immediately after, Dani also gets a phone call from her ex saying that his crazy voodoo wife has traveled to LA to find her. As Dani starts to unravel things start to get a bit nuts in the house she’s staying at until hell literally breaks loose.
I’m a huge sucker for found footage films. I’ve seen every single Paranormal Activity film in theatres opening weekend because I adore them and the gimmick. I actively seek out any found footage flicks I can find, so when I came across VooDoo I couldn’t ignore it. VooDoo starts out with a disgusting bang as we see a woman’s POV as she stalks a child, kills their mother, and then sacrifices the child while chanting and rubbing its blood all over her face. It’s a bloody wonderful and terrifying opening scene. Unfortunately it’s one of the only really scary scenes in the whole movie.
As a whole, VooDoo is a decent achievement in terms of it being writer/director Tom Costabile’s first feature film, as well as working wonders with a small budget. The depictions of Hell are very basic and I feel like they are the absolute stereotypes of what people imagine hell to be like so it never really feels unique, but it’s still visually wonderfully realized. The makeup, blood and gore effects, visual effects and set pieces, everything visually about this film is very obviously low budget, but it never once feels like that’s a bad thing.The acting in the film is all pretty great, especially by Samantha Stewart, who spends roughly half the film screaming and crying and honestly feels so realistic. Moments when her character has hit the spot where she can’t scream anymore and is just exhausted and panting come across wonderfully.
The best part about VooDoo is the writing, and the acting as well, involving Dani and Stacy. From the second they appear on screen together you can tell that these are two life long best friends. Stewart and Reynolds have such amazing chemistry together, but it wouldn’t work without the great writing. We don’t know their whole history together right off the bat, but we can feel that they have shared so many memories in the past. From the way Stacy takes care of her when Dani is around drunk boys who want to bang, to how they just run around having fun together, to even incredibly tender moments when they share memories from their childhood. It’s a wonderful tender relationship that feels completely genuine; these aren’t characters that Costabile has written, these are real people, and Costabile should be celebrated for that.
Where this movie fails, however, is the second half of the film. Without spoiling it, we see demons a lot within the second half of the film and hit a point where Dani is no longer able to carry around her video camera. So far, the camera is barely there for story purposes and Dani sets it up often in random places that make sense to shoot a scene for a movie but not for a person to set it there, so it’s already quite annoying how the “found footage” aspect is being used. Once we get to the second half, however, it gets even worse. Once Dani is no longer really able to film anything, instead we get demons who are holding the camera. Yes, demons. These demons feel the need to also film Dani’s misadventures with hell and demonic forces, for what reason I have no idea and honestly it’s one of the most annoying things I’ve ever come across in a film. I don’t mind people who film instead of dropping the camera and running in the found footage genre, I can look past that often, but this time it feels inexcusable.
All in all, VooDoo isn’t that great. It has a lot of things going for it, but it very obviously feels like a first feature film. I will commend Costabile’s writing for this film and I honestly can’t wait to see what he will make next, but overall this project is just a really ambitious mess. It honestly probably could have been better if it wasn’t filmed through “found footage.” The characters are great and the effects and set pieces are beautiful, but it falls flat in its second half that feels twice as long as it actually is, in a bad way, and is just too ridiculous and unbelievable to really love.